The University of Nebraska State Museum dedicated new sculptures at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park on June 17.
Set in the natural landscape of Ashfall, the “Battling Rhinos” bronze sculpture features two ancient rhinos locked in an eternal struggle. A safe distance away, the second bronze, “Ancient Tortoise,” watches the battle. The bronze replicas, designed by renowned artist and Nebraska native Garry Staab, represent two species found in the ancient watering hole that was at the Ashfall site.
“There is evidence that the fossil barrel-bodied rhinos at Ashfall engaged in the same behavior as modern rhinos. The bulls spar with each other, and occasionally hurt one another with their horn,” said Rick Otto, superintendent at Ashfall. “During Ashfall times, giant tortoises were common animals and would have been a mainstay on the landscape, inhabiting the same area as the barrel-bodied rhinos, three-toed horses and llama-like camels.”
The sculpture dedication honored donors and featured remarks by Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
“You’ve got this incredibly sweet mix of great scientists, great park managers, great philanthropists, great artists,” Johnson said. “And we’re really a long way away from any big population center, but this is a national treasure here in the northeast corner of Nebraska.”
The sculptures were a gift from the Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation. The Hubbard family is a supporter of many programs at the University of Nebraska State Museum and previously funded a 17,500-square-foot, climate-controlled barn that allows Ashfall visitors to watch scientists unearth fossils.
“These statues bring to life the fossils that were buried in ash for millions of years,” said Susan Weller, director of the University of Nebraska State Museum. “They help us to imagine how these animals lived, which scientists determined from studying how the fossils are positioned in the Hubbard Rhino Barn.”
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a joint project of the University of Nebraska State Museum and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. For more information, click here.